Mugabe to party amid distress

2010-02-27 09:48

ZIMBABWE’S president Robert Mugabe, 86, showing no intention of

retiring after 30 years in power, celebrates his birthday today.

This, as the economy

struggles to recover from crisis and two million Zimbabweans urgently needing

food aid.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party

will fete the veteran ruler, whose birthday was actually on February 21, with an

all-night concert among festivities which some critics estimate will cost

$500 000 (about R3.8 million).

A power-sharing government set up by Mugabe and his bitter rival

Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, has stabilised the economy after the

crisis which many Zimbabweans blame on Mugabe’s policies. But aid agencies say

over two million Zimbabweans will still need food aid this year.

Government workers, who earn an average $160 a month (about

R1 200), went on strike this month to press for higher wages, while the majority

of the population lives below a $1 (about R7.50) a day.

“Holding these huge celebrations, even as civil servants strike for

better wages, shows that the inclusive government has done nothing to change the

arrogance of Zanu-PF, which insists on maintaining a personality cult around its

leader, Mugabe, by nationalising what should be a private affair,” said John

Makumbe, a veteran political commentator and Mugabe critic.

“It also shows the party’s priorities are not in line with the

people’s aspirations.”

Zanu-PF will stage the party in Bulawayo, a city controlled by

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

Critics say the combative Mugabe, who looks fit for his age, should

step aside for a younger leader.

But he won a fresh five-year mandate to lead Zanu-PF at its

congress last December.

Mugabe would be 89 at the next elections, which are expected in


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